Exercise Can Be the Best Prescription

During the years 460 to 377 BC the prominent physician Hippocrates strongly recommended physical activity and proper nutrition for good health. Fast forward more than 2000 years to the 1990s when the medical profession formally recognized that physical activity is vital to the body’s health.

In 1992 the American Heart Association explained that a lack of physical activity is a major risk factor for coronary artery disease, which placed it alongside smoking, abnormal cholesterol and triglyceride levels, and hypertension. In 1995, both the Center for Disease Control and Prevention and the American College of Sports Medicine announced the importance of physical activity as a public health initiative. They published a consensus statement by a panel of the National Institute of Health advocating physical activity as important for cardiovascular health. Then, in 1996 the surgeon general of the United States released a written report on the health benefits of physical activity.

People too often think lifting weights until their muscles fail or jogging five miles a day is proper exercise. This myth was the focus of the CDCP/ACSM Report published in 1995 which showed that significant health benefits are attainable with moderate amounts of physical activity, such as a 30 minute brisk walk, 15 minutes of running, or 45 minutes of playing a sport such as volleyball. This does not have to occur every day of the week, just two to three days.

Box Jump

Not everyone should jump into a new fitness regimen. It may be necessary to get clearance from your doctor. This is recommended for people with outstanding medical conditions such as heart issues or a family history of heart conditions, pregnant women, or people with other serious medical conditions. 

Once you are cleared for physical activity you should meet with a fitness professional such as a certified trainer. Trainers can help you discover the proper modes of training to begin. They can help prevent plateaus in your training as well as aid in injury prevention. A good trainer will explain how long your workouts should be, the right intensity for your workouts, as well as how often you should be exercising to start. It is also important to communicate openly and honestly with your trainer so you can reach your health and fitness goals in a healthy and safe manner.

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Overtraining

Many people out there, including myself, like to push hard through their workouts to achieve the best results possible. But, did you know that it is possible to over train? With overly intense workouts many amateur and professional athletes could experience a decline in both performance and physiological function. This could extend over the course of weeks, months, and even years. This is overtraining, and the precise cause of the decrease in performance is not yet fully understood. The most current research has pointed to both physiological and psychological causes.

800px-Finales_du_Championnat_d’Ile-de-France_de_boxe_anglaise_amateur_2009_008Overtraining can occur with the three major forms of training, including resistance, anaerobic, and aerobic workouts. Yes, everyone that works out experiences some form of fatigue during repeated days and weeks of working out, so not all exercise fatigue situations can be classified as over training. The fatigue that follows one or more training sessions is typically relieved after day or so of proper rest as well as proper calorie and carbohydrate rich diets. Yet, over training is characterized by sudden decline in both your performance and physiological function, and it is not remedied after a day or a few days of reduced training or rest.

Depressed_(4649749639)There are multiple symptoms that are linked to the overtraining syndrome, and are usually identifiable only after the individual’s performance and physiological function have begun to suffer. Many of the symptoms can vary from individual to individual, and that can make it difficult for the coaches, trainers, and the athlete to identify the issue as overtraining. It could be a sense of loss of muscular strength, coordination, and exercise capacity, and in some cases generally feels like fatigue. Other big signs of the overtraining syndrome are: a change in appetite, body weight loss, sleep issues, changes in mood such as irritability, restlessness, or anxiousness, a loss of motivation or concentration, possible feelings of depression, and a lack of appreciation for things that you would normally enjoy.

The causes of overtraining syndrome can often be a complex combination of emotional and physiological issues. It could be unrealistic goals, emotional demands of a competition, the fear of failure, and other high expectations can be a source of emotional stress. Because of this over training can typically be accompanied by a loss of competitive desire and a loss of enthusiasm for your workouts.

DSC00421It is important when you’re working with a coach or a trainer to have open communication with them. If you feel you are starting to over train it’s important to sit down and have a discussion. Ways to recover from the overtraining syndrome could include a reduction in training intensity, getting a massage or taking a complete rest for a period of time. Don’t forget, even the best athletes require rest from their training. Recovery can be just as important as your workouts.

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What is Progressive Calisthenics?

If you have checked out my book, “The Calisthenics Quest”, then you have a small idea of what calisthenics is all about. But, what is progressive calisthenics? Calisthenics or as it is translated “beautiful movement”, is using your own body’s weight for fitness. But just like in any other fitness routine, you have to progress and, in some cases, regress. Let’s face it, after a wile those push-ups, pull-ups and squats are going to get a bit easier and you will have to add in a ton of reps to get that burn… or do you? There are many ways to progress your calisthenics workout without boosts reps or adding weight. So let’s look at some options…

First, look at slowing that tempo down. Sure you can now knock out 30-50 push-ups, but now try it slow with a tempo of 3 seconds down and 3 seconds up. That time under tension can be killer and your muscles will be burning with far less reps.

Another option is to increase the range of motion. A few good examples are, instead of bringing your legs to 90 degrees in a squat, go all the way down bringing your butt to your heels. In push-ups bring your chest all the way to the floor, or in pull-ups try pulling your chest to the bar. Full range of motion makes a big difference!

Finally, try to progress to a more challenging version of the basics. This can be done is many different ways. First look at the push-up. You can knock out lots of classic push-ups, so now try bringing your hands closer together or try them with your feet on a bench to change the angle. Of course, if that isn’t challenging enough, you have the one arm push-up. Pull-ups also have many varieties to choose from. Try progressing to the archer pull-up or even commando or L-sit pull-ups. As far as the squat goes, yes they can be made more challenging. Try the archer squat or the Bulgarian Split Squat. If you feel really adventurous, you can also try the pistol squat or the shrimp squat. They will not only challenge your strength but also your balance.

When it comes to progressive calisthenics, never be afraid to try new things but never forget the classics. They will always have their place in your routines. Keep advancing your Quest!

By, Ray Shonk NASM-Master Trainer, PCC Instructor

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Dip Progressions

When it comes to improving your fitness, you have to constantly keep yourself challenged. In weight training, this is done by increasing weight to increase difficulty. With calisthenics, however, it works  little differently. Challenging yourself and calisthenics can mean changing the angle, changing the depth of the movement, or looking at different variations of exercises for the same muscle group. Whether you’re lifting weights or doing calisthenics most of us are familiar with dips. When I was starting to increase the difficulty of my dips, I add weights. But taking a step back and taking a better look at the exercise I found that the weights are not necessary. As I progressed I moved from bench dips, to elevated bench dips, to parallel bar dips, the straight bar dips, and eventually Korean dips. Before I would progress from one to the other I made sure I was reaching the maximum depth with proper form to make sure I was maximizing my range of motion. One of the things I love most about calisthenics is the near limitless amount of exercises you can do if you get creative. You can find a video of all these dips here.

Want to get fit without paying for a gym membership? Do it all in the comfort of your home or local park with my new book The Calisthenics Quest!

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The Truth In My Fitness

I get a lot of comments on photos and articles that I post claiming that, of course I can do the things that I do because I’ve been fit my entire life. But, I can tell you that is not true. In high school, and my much younger years, I was very active and outdoorsy and constantly exercising, but there was a point in which I fell out of it, and through a good portion of my 20’s I was completely off the fitness bandwagon and started putting on a bit of weight and body fat. I came back onto the fitness scene with studying Taijiquan, and not long after I got into weight training. My primary goal, at first, was to start losing that weight that I had put on. And it was a struggle a lot of ups and downs in my diet anger over not seeing results right away and wanting to give up on more than one occasion. But with a lot of hard work, and a few years of busting my butt, I lost about 20 pounds. At this time I was doing a combination of weight training as well as calisthenics. And when I was doing this calisthenic training I will tell you firsthand that I could not do one single pull-up. After continuing to work for a few more years those pull-ups started coming along as well as hitting those crazy numbers on push-ups. It is honestly been within the last four years that I’ve become more calisthenic focused and it’s not because I dislike lifting weights. It was because I found calisthenics just work better for me. Now looking at some of the crazier calisthenic moves that I’ve been doing I want you to keep in mind that for a lot of those I train for well over six months just to do it for the first time and in some cases it took close to a year just to get it for the first time. So what I’m really trying to say is that this was all achieved through hard work not something that I have always been able to do I’m still striving for new goals just like everyone else, I even continue to watch my eating habits. If you have a goal you need to push for it and there will be ups and downs, but there are people out there that are more than willing to support you towards your goal.

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Get info on my up coming book.

Earning My PCC

So after a lot of uncertainty, I decided to bite the bullet and attend the first Boston PCC (Progressive Calisthenics Certification). I will admit I had no idea what to expect out of this 3 day, 8 hour a day workshop. First day in Boston I, of course, had to see the sites, because, hell! There is a ton of history here!

Day One of the PCC was a lot of push-ups and pull-up progressions showing how to advance from a beginner to advanced. I even managed to get my first one arm pull-up! After lunch we moved on to human flag progressions. Yup, you read that correctly. So, it was amazing to see how strong everyone was through all those progressions. We finished the day working on the mighty muscle-up. Yeah, I have been doing them for a while, but they showed me how to make them even more challenging by only using my wrists and going slow. ​

​Even better was seeing all the other people getting their first one! That night I got to go out with some friends from high school that I have not seen in almost 19 years. We had a blast! It was like nothing had changed.

Day Two was all legs and core work. There were a ton of first time moves for everyone! Some getting their first pistol or shrimp squats some getting their first front or back levers, for me, I got my first Meathook and Reverse Grip Back Lever! Even finished the day with a bad ass photo with Al and Danny Kavadlo.


Day Three I got to have breakfast with Danny and Al and just shoot the breeze. In class we went a bit lighter focusing on skills like hand balancing. I was impressed to see everyone’s skill level. They were some truly impressive people! After lunch the pressure was on… we had to test for our certification. When my name came up, my heart jumped up into my throat despite practicing this test over and over for the last few months. But I nailed it! After all was said and done, there were hugs all around. We were all like family in the end. I truly hope to stay in touch with my new calisthenics family.


Now, as the only Dragon Door certified calisthenics trainer in Michigan, I can’t wait to pass on all I have learned this long vacation!

See my personal journey.

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Latest Testimonial 

I have been working with Ray at Quest for a year now. Ray is a great personal trainer, he has encouraged and challenged me to reach each of my goals that I have set. He listens to what you want to accomplish and sets a workout plan to meet those goals! This is my first experience in working with a personal trainer, Ray makes you feel comfortable while pushing you to achieve your goals! I have never felt better in my life – better than my 30’s or 40’s! Thanks Ray!! -Deb

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Calisthenics Booty Building Clinic

This will be a class on progressions for leg workouts using body weight only. The cost of the class will be $25 per person. So come train with the only Dragon Door certified calisthenics trainer in Michigan!

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